Grief Journal: Past Tense

It’s hard to believe, but this is the third back-to-school day without Charlie.

Each year has been hard, but for different reasons. The first, it was just weeks after he died and we were still in shock; it seemed surreal. The second is when it really started setting in that this is our new reality. 

This year, back to school doesn’t mean quite the same thing, as our school district returned 100% virtual due to the COVID epidemic. But we still took pictures with our kids, and the kids in the neighborhood, as did our friends.

Looking at those pictures was bittersweet. I loved seeing them, because these are kids I care about and have known since they were small. But it’s hard to see how tall Charlie’s friends have gotten, how they are suddenly looking like the nearly teenagers they are. It reminds me that he will always be a little boy in my memory, never older than 10.

Ten. So incredibly young. Just a baby, really. He had no comprehension of time beyond the now, no way to understand … well, anything about the choice he made.

I think about how much he would have grown in the two years since then. How much more he would have learned. Like his friends, he would be on the cusp of puberty. HIs sweet face would have changed. He would have started to sprout up. I know he would have been tall; he was always tall for his age. He would have been handsome, with those eyes that could melt hearts. We would have found ways to continue to focus that incredibly smart brain, and help him master the emotions that ruled him.

If only we had more time.

When you lose someone, you lose time. They become past tense—no present, no future. There is a beginning and end to the time you had with them, lines burned in the sand, not to be crossed. You miss the time you would have had with them, and grieve for all the memories that don’t exist because they are gone.

I miss Charlie every day. But as we cycle through the year, it’s the annual markers of time passing—back to school, holidays, seasons changing—that remind me that I will never have more time with him, never make more memories. He exists in the past, and every day, every month and every year moves me further away. 

The last back to school picture

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